Shakopee gains another headquarters

  • Article by: SUSAN FEYDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 20, 2013 - 5:12 PM

As home base to Rahr Malting, the city has seen firsthand what the arrival of Datacard can do for its economy and community.

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Left to right, Rahr Malting Co. executives Gary Lee, Molly Bremer, Jeff Taylor and Jesse Theis. Rahr Malting is the country’s largest ingredient supplier to the fast-growing microbrewing industry. The company has had a big economic and civic impact on the community.

As Datacard prepares for its move to Shakopee, city officials are getting a preview of what it will mean to be home to the new large corporate headquarters.

Economic Development Coordinator Samantha DiMaggio says she recently met with managers of the multinational company and came away with a to-do list.

“They wanted to know where all our restaurants are, and they want a map. They want a list of day-care centers in town, they want a list of homebuilders in town, they want a list of transit options and they want a list of bike trails,” DiMaggio said.

The arrival of any large employer affects a community, but the ripple effect can be magnified with a corporate headquarters, according to Michael Langley, CEO of Greater MSP, a regional development partnership.

“Headquarters tend to outsource a lot,” Langley said. The impact for all types of professional services can be significant, he said.

Langley said communities also seek to attract corporate headquarters because their well-educated workers can be a ready pool of talent tapped for roles as civic leaders. “There’s a philanthropic aspect and a community service aspect,” said Langley of a headquarter’s presence in a town.

An example is Rahr Malting, which currently has Shakopee’s other large corporate headquarters.

“Multiple generations of employees have worked there, so there’s a real presence,” said City Administrator Mark McNeill of the company, which has been in Shakopee since 1935. He noted that its grain elevators on the north side of town even show up on the city’s logo.

McNeill said the company has been active in the community, helping fund equipment for the fire department and St. Francis Regional Medical Center. Over the years, its employees have served on the board of the YMCA and the school board and worked as volunteers in schools’ science programs.

Former Mayor John Schmitt said the Rahr Foundation was the major contributor for a project that helped establish a public library at its present site on the corner of Third Avenue E. and Lewis Street S. The company also helped restore two bridges on the west side of town. “It vastly improved our west front door to the city,” Schmitt said.

With about 135 employees, Rahr is not one of Shakopee’s largest employers. But the jobs are high-paying, requiring well-educated workers.

Rahr’s direct economic effect is substantial. Last year the company paid about $796,000 in citywide property taxes on its 26-acre corporate complex, putting it second as a taxpayer behind Xcel Energy, according to McNeill.

While the pending arrival of Datacard and several other new businesses has received a lot of attention this year, Rahr exists as quiet giant on the north edge of town. Over the years it has grown to become one of the world’s largest suppliers of malt to brewers like MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch InBev, with a North American market share roughly equal to that of Cargill, Inc.

And through a subsidiary, Rahr stands as the No. 1 ingredient supplier to the fast-growing craft brewing segment of the industry. Its craft-brewing customers include well-known local brands like Surly, Fulton and Summit.

CEO Gary Lee says the company’s craft-brewing supply segment has more than 30 percent of the U.S. market, with opportunities for more growth. “The craft phenomenon is one that started in the U.S. and taken hold in a big fashion, but it’s now starting to show up in other parts of the world,” he said. In January the company completed the first floor of a two-story headquarters built for its craft-brewing business unit and is about to begin work on the second floor — about three years sooner than expected, Lee said.

Lee said customers and suppliers from around the globe make regular visits to the company in Shakopee, generating business for local restaurants and hotels. That’s also true for Rahr’s quarterly board meetings, when directors from other parts of the country travel to town.

DiMaggio said Datacard also is likely to draw visitors from across the country as well as overseas.

  • related content

  • Among Rahr’s customers are Surly, Fulton and Summit brewing companies.

  • Rahr executives Jeff Taylor, Jesse Theis, Gary Lee and Molly Bremer on the roof. Rahr is not Shakopee’s largest employer, but the company’s economic ramifications ripple through the city. The 26-acre complex on the north edge of town is second only to Xcel Energy in the city’s tax receipts.

  • Theis, Lee, Bremer and Taylor check over some grain. The plant’s jobs require well-educated workers.

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